By Martin Longley, a music critic who writes for The Guardian, Downbeat, All About Jazz, Songlines and Jazzwise, among others.
video: geoff baer

Video: Joseph boulet

Opening Concert, Monday 12th June

The opening Monday night concert of the CMS spring workshop displayed the talents of its guiding artists, playing together in various permutations. It’s an initial demonstration of where each player stands, musically, prior to the masterclasses and collective tuition that will follow over the course of the next three days. The Full Moon resort at Big Indian, in the Catskill Mountains, is a secluded encampment of natural quiet, a wilderness haven for the arts, with a particular attention paid to music camps. The Full Moon folks also handled catering for the recent Mountain Jam festival, and will be hosting a King Crimson camp to tie in with the soon-coming tour by those English prog-rock leviathans.

The guiding artists and around 25 workshop participants gathered in the Full Moon reception, everyone introducing themselves, and giving a brief background to their journey towards improvisation. Dinner followed in the converted barn, which was to also serve as the ample space for the week’s coming masterclasses. Around 8pm, all of the assembled ambled up the hill to the Roadhouse. This is Full Moon’s dedicated venue, complete with bar, stage and in-house sound system.


The Chinese pipa player Min Xiao Fen played solo at first, with a release of pent-up energy, contrasting the often dignified and gentle nature of this instrument with a forceful approach that’s immersed in free improvisation and Delta blues traditions. It’s a strikingly aggressive attack, loaded with bent and sliding notes, her palms sometimes spread flat to encompass the maximum number of strings on the pipa’s broad neck. She makes sudden switches of gear, from a driving thrash, into spidering clusters.

Ken Filiano

The New York bassist Ken Filiano and the Mexican guitarist Omar Tamez begin with soft, granular bowing and agitated picking. Filiano periodically raises an interest in effects pedals (even though most of his gigs feature a purer bass sound), and he’s using these foot-triggerers here, whilst Tamez calls to mind the pliant sound of James Blood Ulmer. Filiano and Tamez are soon heading towards a straight-running momentum. This duo becomes a quartet, as Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso enter, the former implying a South African sound on piano keyboard, the latter flitting between words and scat. Sertso brings in a narrative sense, something that will frequently govern the structure of the following pieces. She might be considering calling their first improvisation “Dance With Life”, a developing phrase in the piece.

Peter Apfelbaum

There’s a further expansion, as tenor saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum and drummer Warren Smith come onstage, with Berger moving across to the vibraphone. A classic Blue Note-ed character moves the music closer to the jazz mainline, with Smith playing on a straight drum-kit, although augmented by an extra floor-tom. Often, when he’s found playing in NYC, Smith favors an expanded tympani set-up. Berger’s solo mixes open resonance with curtailed strikes, developing a freer nature. “When will the blues leave? Never!,” declaims Sertso, as this Ornette Coleman tune concludes.

Warren Smith

Continuing, Smith produces an abstract clatter, and Apfelbaum leads a rugged take-off, Tamez making scything strikes, edged with decorative details, and coming close to a Vietnamese microtonality. The evening’s most unusual line-up featured Min Xiao Fen, Tom Tedesco (tabla), along with Berger and Filiano. Min also vocalized, her immense energy setting off a flash of communal fire amongst her partners. This was improvisation with tension, release, heightened empathy and fine detail.

Masterclasses & Workshop Sessions, Tuesday 13th June

During her vocal/tuning awareness session, Ingrid Sertso is talking about being inspired by working with the recently departed Pauline Oliveros (who also was a Guiding Artist at the CMS Workshop in October, 2016): “Use your speaking voice”, she instructs her gathering of vocalists, in a circle of drone, naturally finding many levels of tone. Even though most of these participants are not professional singers, no one sounds “out of tune,” as the cluster gravitates towards a strata of sonic suspension. Then, Sertso vocalizes across the top of their layers, or perhaps sideways. There’s a very Eastern sensibility to this approach, although ‘east’ can stretch from Tibetan and Tuvan lands, coming back through to the Balkans. The circle gets tighter, the act of standing closer tending to intensify the resultant sound. It’s a kind of organic mathematics, beginning to sound like a Ligeti or Stockhausen vocal work.

The first part of multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum’s masterclass begins with him distributing word-sheets, to be used later in the proceedings. He’s talking about the scale as a foundation, either as something to harmonize with, or alternatively, scrape against. Ashe constructs the ranks, delivering their duties, Apfelbaum introduces the comparison with a Jamaican dub reggae wizard, bringing up the fader on sonic action that is already underway. He instantaneously cues either individuals or spontaneously created groups to rise up, or slip away in the collective spread. He prompts them to enter suddenly, or creep in softly, and incrementally, then he turns his attention to the percussionists, asking them to play busily, but imagining that they’re way off in the distance, much quieter than usual.

Finally, he adds a loping funk drumbeat. The participants might feel like they’re caught in the midst of an efficient and hard-working LA studio recording session, perhaps for a movie soundtrack. Apfelbaum is a master communicator, actively open to accident and spontaneity, but with a very precise idea of a battle plan. He has the knack of giving instructions, but making them seem like suggestions. He’s not locked into his own advance playing: if he hears a player straying, Apfelbaum might decide that they’re worth following.

After all this swift construction, it’s time to introduce some solos, at the same time as building a bridge section. The players have an impressive capacity to memorize their leader’s repeating patterns and involved passage-shifts. Apfelbaum wants the bridge to be looped, in human fashion, with a flexibility for content, but also requiring a dogged repeat, once the content has been decided.

After a break for lunch, the second part of the masterclass has Apfelbaum moving to the drumkit. His chief instrument is the tenor saxophone, but he’s also pretty hot on keyboards and drums. Apfelbaum is breaking down the percussion into separate parts, and this is where reeds specialist Lee Odom (from NYC) solos on soprano saxophone, scooting around with a supple ease, magnifying the excitement of the section. Next, Apfelbaum wants to work on a mostly vocal ensemble sequence, as a prelude to inserting the content of the lyric sheets. Part of this involves a reading of In The Beginning, a poem by Dylan Thomas, tackled by three vocalists: Charles Ver Straeten, Roberta Lawrence and Mary Enid Haines. All of these constituent parts are eventually melded, even though they might seem ungainly in their mass. Apfelbaum has everything under control, though, with his remarkable ability to shape and direct all of these talented artists.

In an unusual move, Apfelbaum’s next step is to work on an arrangement of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows In April”, perfectly illustrating the wide ranges of sources for improvisation to be found during a CMS workshop. For the last 30 minutes of his masterclass, Apfelbaum constructs a complete arrangement, working with his usual speedy decisiveness. He guides the song towards an easy gliding motion, switching to the keyboards, as trumpeter Steven Bernstein arrives to coincide with the latest downpour outside. He’s a veteran attendee at CMS workshops for the last four decades, with him (15 years old) and Apfelbaum (16 years old) first making their pilgrimage from Berkeley in 1977. Both of them (along with percussionist Billy Martin) are now associate artistic directors with CMS.

CMS Spring 2017 Workshop. Photo by Karin Wolfe

Berger’s daily session begins with a call for the horn players to have ears open for the entire spread of sound, not just their own contribution. Then, all of the ensemble’s instruments become a part of the palette. He prompts single stabs, followed by sustained smears. Bernstein starts completely solo, and the orchestra awakens into a fiercely uptempo number. The music, and Berger himself, lift off, as he stands up, getting right up close to players as he urges them on with detailed hand-gestures, directly addressing the horns. Berger is in control, but he’s also facilitating individual expression, within the structural guidelines that he’s built.

Evening Concert, Tuesday 13th June

Tanya Kalmanovitch

The evening’s first grouping features Berger, Sertso, Smith, Tamez, Filiano, Bernstein, Apfelbaum and the newly-arrived Tanya Kalmanovitch on viola. They weave a winding tale, and the music is suitably filmic in character, as Bernstein rips into a flaring slide trumpet solo. Besides this display, most of the orientation is towards an ensemble nature, creating a levelled group sound. Smith and Filiano begin the next piece, with the latter using a wah-wah pedal to contort his sound, the rest of the players now weighing in with a be-bopped momentum. Kalmanovitch takes a swooping solo, richly embellishing, and the mischievous Bernstein/Apfelbaum team trade curt phrases, in the old-school manner. It’s the typical equality of jazz language presented throughout this workshop’s span, embracing jazz tradition as well as the more wayward extremes of free improvisation, with frequent exploration of global ethnic forms. Berger moves to the vibes, adopting a lightly stippling touch, in a duet with visiting Spanish guitarist Alvaro Domene, who has recently settled in the Hudson Valley area. The combination benefits from a taut dynamism, particularly during their second number.

Masterclasses & Workshop Sessions, Wednesday 14th June

Min-Xiao-Fen (photos Karin Wolf)

Min Xiao Fen’s masterclass uses Chinese traditional music, and Peking opera motifs, as a template for the morning’s improvisational journey. She guides with phonetic patterns, prompting the percussion, and asking the sticksmen (Michael Shore, Joe Boulet) to concentrate on small sounds, perhaps using gongs or woodblocks. Vivid facial expressions and extravagant gestures are just as much a part of her communicating array. Then, along with the music, she sings the patterns. With its alien vocabulary and innate complexity, this musical area is surely one of the most difficult to inhabit, particularly for those musicians inexperienced in this language (probably most of the participants). Given the space of just a few hours, it’s certainly hard to grasp.

Min manages to direct the large spread of participants with a fair degree of control, carefully working towards the establishment of a unified flow, binding the singers to the instruments. At first, the players find it difficult to take flight, maybe too self-conscious about being precise. As Min cues repeats, a Chinese form of Philip Glass-ian minimalism begins to evolve, as the repeats ripple outwards. She may be rooted in the tradition, but as witnessed with her pipa playing, Min is always working towards either expanding, twisting or maybe even subverting the core Chinese concepts. Quite astoundingly, by the end of the masterclass, the gathered players surmount the challenge, with the final piece of the puzzle being an almost swinging, loping section, its notes articulated with a good amount of swaying and lolloping. Now there’s even more material, as Min takes the vocal repeats down to a hushed whisper.


Time for lunch!

 An exciting aspect of each masterclass is the almost inevitable turn it will take into a completely different musical approach, governed by the concerns, style and experience of its guiding artist. Joe McPhee (saxophones, trumpet) elects to guide the participants towards structured free improvisation, meaning that the naked content of contributions is completely spontaneous, but placed within a framework that is itself spontaneously built by McPhee. It’s improvised conduction, controlling the improvisation of others, but within itself, pure in its freedom.

Before the music starts to sound, McPhee delivers an eloquent description of his early influence under John Coltrane, his disbelief over the revered saxophonist’s untimely death, and the amusing regularity with which McPhee’s and Ornette Coleman’s paths began to cross around that 1967 time. Not least with their slightly tardy viewing of Coltrane’s open casket at his funeral service. It was as though the torch was being passed, as McPhee moved from Coltrane to Ornette, the latter taking him under his wing, the nature of free jazz gradually evolving into something more extreme.

McPhee’s first tactic is to get the drummers to play a figure, and then immediately chase this with something totally different. He asks the string instrumentalists to find a sound, then sustain it, the drums producing a beat, and the other players tacking something onto that mathematical base. Then, after a long moment of silence, all hell breaks loose. McPhee joins in on soprano saxophone, and calmly signals for trumpet and flute to take the space, silencing the guitar wing, a pipa solo emerging. McPhee conducts sensitively, even though the end result might be brutal in being. As this extended improvisation ceases, it appears to be the end of the masterclass, but McPhee quietly suggests that “we can play some more, if you want.” Straight away, the basses and drums set up a meaty groove, and the horns squabble in unison. It’s noticeable that the participants tend to play in a style descended from what they imagine or expect their guiding artist to desire. This is no bad outcome, as it highlights the organic, malleable nature of improvisation.

It’s not officially the second part of her masterclass (that’s due for the next day), but Min Xiao Fen precedes the late afternoon orchestra session with a performance of the work she’d been crafting earlier. After letting it percolate during the afternoon, this time all of the players are primed, waiting to release their energies. Now, all the components are fully integrated. The players have learned their complicated parts, and are freed up to make this later reading more confident, less inhibited by uncertainty. Some special vibration hangs in the ether.

CMS Spring 2017 Workshop. Photo by Karin Wolfe

This aura is intensified during the following improvisation, led by Berger, which is set to be some of the spring workshop’s greatest music. Now there’s a remarkable energy sizzling around the barn-space, its sliding doors opened to reveal the field and forest vistas outside. Warren Smith has joined the drumming team, providing much of the thrust, as Billy Martin (of Medeski Martin & Wood fame) also guests, rummaging in his percussion bag as he stands on the stairs that lead up to the mezzanine’s mixing desk and recording facilities. Steven Bernstein is also still in the house. Berger’s piece (“We Are”) co-opts its elements into a shuffling Afro-Latin New Orleans mélange, with bassist Ken Filiano doing his sousaphone impersonation. Then a samba procession develops, and Berger takes the volume right down, a guitar part suddenly discernible in the quietness. Berger points to the Mexican pianist Dave Trevino to take a solo, whilst the workshop’s Japanese participants, dancer Michiru Inoue and shakuhachi player Ken Ya Kawaguchi, respond to the escalations.

Evening Concert, Wednesday 14th June

 The first grouping at the evening concert is McPhee, Filiano, Tamez, Smith and keyboardist Angelica Sanchez, opting for a luminous abstraction. McPhee chooses soprano, and it doesn’t take him long to graduate from placid reflection to nervy agitation, dragging his colleagues behind him in the rush towards explosive release.

The second piece is delivered by Berger, Sertso, Tamez, Bernstein, Filiano, Smith and Apfelbaum, the night’s mood already inclined towards larger groupings. Berger is on vibraphone, demonstrating his marvelous human-touch echo. Meanwhile, Apfelbaum wrenches out a gutsy tenor solo. Berger moves to piano and Smith glides to the vibes, this duo softly speaking “Body And Soul”, with a poised translucence. The tune is very sensitively traversed, and then we’re snapped out of our reverie by Filiano, who’s adopting a smile-inducing attitude towards emcee-ing. It’s like he’s born into this role, and relishing every exuberant moment!

Next up, a trio with Min, McPhee and Filiano, the latter bowing sonorously, creating another stand-out musical passage straight away. There’s a hog-calling vocal exchange between Min and Filiano, and changes of instrumental dynamics throughout. Min plays her pipa strings with a bottleneck slide, but can swap to thin, gossamer runs, as a sharp alternative. When she ditches her slide, Filiano picks up his bow again, as Apfelbaum joins the trio, encouraging a tense, stalking, pre-release feeling. Berger now delivers a solo version of “Fragments”, with close, dampened strikes on the vibraphone, making soft rubs and quicksilver ripples. This is definitely the night of the guiding artists, all of the combination line-ups imbued with a noticeable vigor.

Masterclasses & Workshop Sessions, Thursday 15th June

Tanya Kalmanovitch (viola) is something of an unknown quantity at the CMS workshop, a first-timer with a novel approach to the masterclass. Of course, all of the other presenters have their quirks, but her elected agenda is to explore the art of the ending, specifically in the realm of improvisation. Beginnings can be almost as challenging: who opens first, and at what level of density, nature of tone and sense of pace. How do they choose? The exact point of finishing is arguably more of a challenge. Sometimes it’s collectively obvious where a piece might conclude, if it rises towards a clear climax, but on other occasions an improvisation might just drift away into the ether, or perhaps come to a sudden (often instinctive, or chance) halt.

Kalmanovitch discusses the concept of potential endings, even if not every player ultimately acts on this possibility. She asks the participants to identify the likely points at which an improvisation might conclude. There might be a single stage, where no argument is offered, or there might be five, six, or more. Perhaps, even if the majority decide to finish, one player might soldier onwards, or believe that there is absolutely no end in sight, so far. There’s perhaps not much of a concrete gain to be made, during this masterclass, as it seems that Kalmanovitch is preaching general awareness and sensitivity rather than opening a clearly defined rulebook.

Following lunch, Min Xiao Fen returns for her second masterclass, continuing to shape the Peking opera-influenced work from the previous day. This time around she’s concentrating on subliminal vocal tones, inspired by Chinese folk songs. This marks a detour into a complementary area of activity. She starts off the participants with a sustained tone, its notes hovering in a highly subtle inhabitation of the space. Hushed guitars, and baritone saxophone (played by Bill Ylitalo) are introduced, with vestigial drum and cymbal sounds around the perimeter.

Switching back to the Peking opera composition (as it has now become), Min sets it rolling once again, and the trouncing, stomping section increases in power each time it’s invoked, as the ensemble latch onto its propulsive groove. The vocal segment is also amassing energy and conviction. Closing up the session with soft, sustained and sparing sounds, the participants pull the art of contemplation up to its highest level.

The last orchestra improvisation provides another absolute musical peak of this spring workshop. Karl Berger cultivates the stately leviathan of “The Smile That You Send Out Returns To You”, coaxing out a cumulative, ritualistic incarnation of his song. First, Berger lays out the elements, starting a chant around the circle of participants. Gradually, tabla and goblet-shaped darbuka drum are introduced, as verbal and handclapping arrangements are developed. Berger joins in on melodica. Once this structure is in place, he begins an extended improvisation, which eventually re-introduces the song/chant, following this elaborate improvised genesis.

The combined duration was probably approaching 90 minutes, but so engaging was the music that timepieces were not required, as there was no single moment where it wandered, stalled or dispersed into routine. The electricity of Berger’s commanding presence, and the charge set up around the players, filled the circle with a glowing possession to match that of the previous day’s session during this same late afternoon time-phase. These two orchestral improvisations were amongst the most exciting musical spells of the entire workshop.

Evening Concert, Thursday 15th June

As the participants get to know each other, both socially and musically, over the four days, the wheels of improvisation become well-oiled, as groupings form during the final day’s evening concert. One such impromptu band features Ted Orr (tabla), Bill Ylitalo (wooden birdcall plunger-whistles) and the Japanese duo, with Inoue dramatically bursting out of the rest room just a few rows from the left side of the stage, swinging its door open violently, to initiate her dance, gliding towards the stage in a genuinely startling piece of choreography..!

A grouping of Berger, Sertso, Tamez, Filiano, and Smith (on vibes) essays “On The Sunny Side Of The Street”, followed by a radically more unusual pairing of Chuck ver Straeten (voice) and Min Xiao Fen (voice/pipa). She gurgles into a plastic cup of water, whilst Chuck smacks his lips and puckers, finding a dramatic and arresting performance art outlet, both of them speaking in tongues. It’s a dialogue that you might imagine emanating from the neighboring apartment of your worst married couple conflict scenario nightmares. Min pants and they squeal in unison, making noh theatre-type ululations and growls, like a radically avant garde John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Apfelbaum, Filiano, Kalmanovitch, Smith (on vibes), and Joe Boulet (drums) make a skeletal funk construct, a soft strut implied more than labored. Apfelbaum echoes Kalmanovitch, whilst Boulet uses puffball sticks, reined in within the open sonic space. Smith makes supple crystalline shapes, with one unexpected moment where he ratchets the mallets across the vibraphone’s resonator pipes, always aware of the sideways percussive opportunity.

Another highlight arrives close to the end, with alto saxophonist Paul Goldberg shining out on Monk’s “In Walked Bud”, with Berger (vibes), Filiano and Apfelbaum, the latter now ensconced behind the drumkit. Goldberg had already impressed with several citrus-streaming solos during the daytime sessions.

Even though most of the participants weren’t firing off aggressively individualistic solos throughout the workshop, their stances became markedly strengthened, and their collective sensibilities enhanced as the days progressed. There was an increasing integration between the guiding artists and the participating workshop players, as bonding and confidence increased. Playing permutations were flying spontaneously, particularly by the time of this last evening’s Roadhouse concert. There was also a valuable contrast between the elaborate scale of the daytime’s large ensemble work, and the off-shoot intimacy of the night-time small group promiscuity.


Once again, we retreat deep into the Catskills where mobile phones don’t work to create a community centered around music, nature and human creativity. Guiding Artists fill our ears with music and brains with wisdom, none more so than Karl and Ingrid. People come as strangers and leave as friends, colleagues, musical co-conspirators. Bonds and bands are formed. We’re well-fed musically, but also physically by gorgeous mountain surroundings, sumptuous food and caring friends at Full Moon Resort.  Ears and bodies well taken care of, our spirits soar.  What’s really surprising is that this is typical of CMS Workshops – each reaches a new height. We always think we’ve reached a pinnacle…and then another workshop happens and the bar is set higher.

Special thanks to our guiding artists – Min, Peter, Tanya and Joe – along with Ken Filiano, Warren Smith, Omar Tamez, Angelica Sanchez, and special guests Billy Martin, Steven Bernstein and Timothy Hill.  And of course to Matthew Cullen (sound), Geoff Baer (video) and Karin A. Wolf (photography) for capturing the sounds, images and spirit of this workshop.  Thanks to our friends at Full Moon for making us always feel at home (and for finally making the coffee strong enough!).

See you in for the CMS Fall Workshop October 2-6.

– Rob

Series Features Small Ensembles to Orchestras, From NYC to the Catskills

Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso

May 30, 2017, Woodstock, NY – The enduring spirit if the Creative Music Studio™, nearing its fifty-year anniversary, will be showcased in a month-long series of concerts from New York City to the organization’s home base in upstate New York. The twelve June performances will feature CMS artistic directors – Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, Steven Bernstein,  Billy Martin and Peter Apfelbaum – in various settings from small ensembles to full orchestras. A complete schedule is below.

Steve Bernstein

The performances commence on Saturday, June 10 with the CMS Improvisers Orchestra at the El Taller Cultural Community Center at 215 East 99th Street in Manhattan. CMS co-founder Karl Berger will conduct the Orchestra, comprised of twenty or more soloists, and this performance will feature percussionist Valerie Naranjo. It begins at 8:30pm with a rehearsal that’s open to ticket holders at 7:00pm. Tickets are $20 ($15 students) at the door.

Peter Apfelbaum

Evening performances in conjunction with the CMS Spring Workshop in Big Indian, NY, will take place from June 12 – 15. Each night at 8:15pm, ensembles comprised of the workshop’s Guiding Artists will take the stage in the Full Moon Resort’s intimate Roadhouse.  Artists performing in these four upstate concerts will include: Karl Berger (piano/vibes), Ingrid Sertso (vocal), Peter Apfelbaum (reeds, flutes), Warren Smith (percussion), Min Xiao Fen (Chinese pipa), Joe McPhee (reeds), Tanya Kalmanovitch (viola), Ken Filiano (bass), Angelica Sanchez (piano) and Omar Tamez (guitar). Suggested donation is $20.

On Sunday June 17 at 7:00pm, Karl Berger’s new group, “Together,” will perform at the Falcon in Marlboro, NY. The group features Karl Berger (vibes, piano), Ingrid Sertso (poetry, vocals), Kirk Knuffke (cornet),

Billy Martin

Billy Martin (drums), Kenny Wessel (guitar), Ken Filiano (bass) and special guest, Peter Apfelbaum (reeds, flutes). Suggested donation is $20.

Finally, The Stone in New York City will be home base for CMS and its artistic directors during the week of June 27 – July 2 in a series Karl Berger is curating. Tickets are $20 at the door. The schedule is:

June 27: “Vibes, Voice & Bass” (Ken Filiano, bass; Ingrid Sertso, vocals, poetry; and Karl Berger, vibes, compositions)

June 28: “Hustling Raindrops” (Billy Martin, percussion; Peter Apfelbaum, flutes/reeds; Jay Rodriguez, flutes, reeds; Dana Lyn, violin; and Falu, vocals)

June 29: “Apfelbaum/Rojas/Baptista” (Peter Apfelbaum , woodwinds, keyboards, percussion; Marcus Rojas, tuba, percussion; and Cyro Baptista, percussion, vocals)

June 30: “Sertso/Berger Quintet” (Kenny Wessel, guitar; Ken Filiano, bass; Warren Smith, drums; Ingrid Sertso, vocals, poetry; and Karl Berger, vibes, piano, compositions)

July 1: “The Directors” (Steven Bernstein, trumpet; Peter Apfelbaum, tenor sax, flutes; Billy Martin, drums; Ken Filiano, bass; Ingrid Sertso, vocals, poetry; and Karl Berger, piano, vibes)

July 2 “Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra” (Steven Bernstein, trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes, trombone; Charlie Burnham, violin; Doug Wieselman, clarinet; Peter Apfelbaum, tenor saxophone; Erik Lawrence, baritone saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Ben Allison, bass; and Ben Perowsky, drums).

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds and traditions, deepening and transforming their personal experience, understanding and expression of music as a universal language by illuminating its shared elements in workshops, residencies, performances, recording and archival projects throughout the U.S. and around the globe. The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others. Its website is:

Soloists Include Peter Apfelbaum, Graham Haynes, Jason Hwang,
Warren Smith and Steve Swell;
Concert Features Latino Poet Jesús Papoleto Meléndez
And Songwriter Bernardo Palombo

 Woodstock, NY, May 16, 2017 — The Creative Music Studio™ Improvisers Orchestra, conducted by Karl Berger, will perform Saturday night, May 27 at the El Taller Cultural Community Center at 215, East 99th Street in Manhattan. This performance features multi-instrumentalist and CMS™ associate artistic director Peter Apfelbaum, cornetist Graham Haynes, violin/viola virtuoso Jason Hwang, percussion wizard Warren Smith, trombonist Steve Swell and vocalist/poet Ingrid Sertso. The Orchestra will also back Latino poet Jesús Papoleto Meléndez and songwriter Bernardo Palombo. The performance begins at 8:30 with a rehearsal open to ticket holders at 7:00.  Tickets are $20 ($15 students).

Since its inception in 2011, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra, comprised of 20 or more string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, has performed nearly 90 times.  Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed over decades at the legendary Creative Music Studio™, the CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra explores Berger’s original compositions as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions and themes by visionary composers such as Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously among the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

In this special performance, the CMS Improvisers Orchestra will accompany “Poet and Prophet of El Barrio,” Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, and icon of Nueva canción and El Taller founder, Bernardo Palombo, as they perform a poem and a song honoring Antonia Martínez Lagares, a college student fatally shot by police in Puerto Rico in 1970 while protesting police violence . The New York State Council on the Arts and the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation are generously underwriting this performance. CIO will also perform at El Taller on Saturday, June 10, in concert showcasing Valerie Naranjo, a marimbist, percussionist, vocalist, and composer who is exploring the relationships between indigenous music in West Africa and popular music in America.

The CMS Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. In a glowing notice, the Wall Street Journal said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background.”  The arts blog Lucid Culture remarked that “the camaraderie and warmth of the repartee between the orchestra and conductor – and among the orchestra itself – was visceral,” and acclaimed jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote that the orchestra “can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other through ‘intuited communication.’”

Musicians featured in these CMS Improvisers Orchestra performances may include:, Sana Nagano, Richard Carr, Ernesto Llorens violins, Jason Hwang, Leonor Falcon, viola, Tomas Ulrich, cello; Graham Haynes, cornet, Brian Groder, Thomas Heberer, trumpet; Peter Apfelbaum, Ras Moshe, flute and tenor sax; Sylvain Leroux, fula flutes; Haruna  Fukazawa, Gene Coleman, flutes; Andy Laties, shakuhachi; Lee Odom, Don Payne, clarinets; Michael Lytle, Christoph Knoche, bass clarinet; Richard Keene, oboe; Jason Candler, soprano sax; Welf Doerr, Patrick Brennan, alto sax; Bill Ylitalo, baritone sax;; Steve Swell, Rick Maurer, Westwood Johnson, trombones; Michael Gassmann, Ted Orr, guitars; John Ehlis, mandolin; Ken Filiano, Hilliard Greene, Nicolas Letman, basses; Warren Smith, Aaron Latos, Hollis Headrick, percussion; and surprise guests.

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds and traditions, deepening and transforming their personal experience, understanding and expression of music as a universal language by illuminating its shared elements in workshops, residencies, performances, recording and archival projects throughout the U.S. and around the globe. The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others.


Noted Composer Joined by Pianist Marilyn Crispell, Cellist Leila Bordreuil & Improviser Miguel Frasconi
Greenwich House Music School
Saturday, April 8, 2017, 8:00 PM

The revamped Creative Music Studio™ will present an evening with the pioneering composer and electronic musician Richard Teitelbaum in a rare NYC performance on Saturday, April 8 at Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street (off Bleecker Street) in Greenwich Village at 8:00 PM. Tickets, available at the door, are $20.

The CMS™ concert will feature an extraordinary combination of improvisers playing together as a quartet for the first time. Several pieces will be debuted, providing the group ample room to improvise in duos, trios and as a quartet. Pianist Marilyn Crispell has performed with Teitelbaum for four decades, the two having first met at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock in the 1970s. Glass instrument player Miguel Frasconi studied with Teitelbaum at Toronto’s York University, also in the 1970s, and cellist Leila Bordreuil studied and worked with Teitelbaum at Bard College. At Greenwich House Music School the quartet will explore and expand the sonic possibilities of electronic and acoustic improvisation.

Underwriting support for this performance is provided by the Robert D. Bielecki Foundation.

 Richard Teitelbaum was born in NYC in 1939. After graduating from Haverford College, he went on to get a Master of Music degree from Yale in 1964. Teitelbaum studied with composers Luigi Nono and Goffredo Petrassi in Italy on a Fullbright scholarship, after which he brought the first Moog synthesizer to Europe. Teitelbaum performed hundreds of concerts with it, and co-founded the pioneering live electronic music group Musica Elettronica Viva with Frederic Rzewski and Alvin Curran. This group was also instrumental at the Creative Music Studio where all three composers taught and worked. Teitelbaum’s opera, Golem, was performed at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria (1991), and Teitlebaum himself has performed throughout the U.S., Japan and Europe. His music is heard on Cantaur, Hat Hut, Tzadik, and other labels. Besides making music and working with interactive computer systems, Teitelbaum has taught electronic music and composition at New York’s Vassar College, and Bard College where he has also been Director of the Electronic Music Studio. He was also instrumental in the development of the Creative Music Studio, having taught a variety of master classes on experimental and electronic music, further expanding the palette of sounds and musical experiences CMS has offered.

 Marilyn Crispell has been a composer and performer of contemporary improvised music since 1978. For ten years, she was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet and the Reggie Workman Ensemble, and she has performed and recorded extensively as a soloist and with players on the American and international jazz scene, also working with dancers, poets, film-makers and visual artists, and teaching workshops in improvisation. She has been the recipient of three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust composition commission. She has been deeply involved in the Creative Music Studio since she first came there as a student in the 1970s. Her debut recording with Anthony Braxton kicks off CMS Archive Selection Series Vol. 2.

 Leila Bordreuil is a Brooklyn based cellist and composer from Aix-en-Provence, France. She works in the realm of Noise music, improvisation, New Music and sound-art. Her cello playing is often improvised, and mainly focuses on texture variations and a collage of phantom overtones and pitched utterances. Through an original vocabulary of extended techniques, preparations, and imaginative amplification methods, her instrument is used as an abstract resonant body to challenge conventional cello practice. Her composed works draw from a similar texture-based musical aesthetic, but also focus on the relationship between sound and space. In her site-specific electro-acoustic compositions, architecture is the foundation of the piece and musicality arises from an organized spacialization of sound. Leila’s collaborative projects include duos with Michael Foster and Tamio Shiraishi, a trio with Sean Ali and Joanna Mattrey, and the no-wave band “Signal Break”. She has performed at the Whitney Museum, The Kitchen, The Stone, MoMA PS1, Issue Project Room, All Ears Festival (Oslo, NO), Cafe Oto (London, UK), Ausland (Berlin, DE), Ftarri (Tokyo, JP) , and many basements across the U.S.

 Miguel Frasconi is a composer and improviser specializing in the relationship between acoustic objects and musical form. His instrumentarium includes glass objects, analog electronics, laptop, and hybrid constructions of his own design. He has composed chamber music, operas, and numerous dance scores. His opera, Hand To Mouth, was premiered in northern California in 2015, and a new short opera will be premiered at Symphony Space, NYC, in May 2017, as part of Experiments in Opera’s spring season. Miguel has worked closely with composers John Cage, James Tenney, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, and has collaborated with many choreographers, including Alonzo King and modern dance pioneer Anna Halprin. In September 2012 the New York Times called his CAGE100 Festival @ The Stone “one of the best observances of John Cage’s 100th birthday” and included performances by his Noisy Toy Piano Orchestra and John Cage Variety Show Big Band. Miguel’s music has been released on New Albion, Porter Records,, and recordings of his string quartets will soon be released on the Tzadik label.

Greenwich House Music School (GHMS) has been providing high-quality music education to the people of New York City since 1905. The school has occupied its current location since 1914 and has played an important part in the careers and lives of tens of thousands of students. The distinguished faculty works to ensure students of all ages have the opportunity to experience music through classes and performances, and being at the center of New York’s downtown arts scene allows for an array of renowned artists to become active at the school. Past guests have included John Cage, Jorma Kaukonen, Henry Cowell, Edgar Varèse, Morton Subotnick, Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk. The school continues to serve the musical needs of students of all ages with private lessons, group classes, ensembles and regular student and faculty recitals. In addition to educating its students, GHMS serves the community with a wide spectrum of concerts and readings in its Renee Weiler Concert Hall, hosts education workshops and meetings for local civic and cultural organizations, and provides rehearsal and performance space for local musicians.

The Creative Music Studio engages musicians and listeners from all backgrounds and traditions, deepening and transforming their personal experience, understanding and expression of music as a universal language by illuminating its shared elements in workshops, residencies, performances, recording and archival projects throughout the U.S. and around the globe. The Creative Music Studio™ and CMS ™ are trademarks of the Creative Music Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation founded in 1971 that receives funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), among others.

Events in Manhattan and the Catskill Mountains Feature Mary Halvorson, Nels Cline, Billy Martin and others

CMS will present an expanded series of concerts and workshops in Manhattan and upstate New York throughout 2017, featuring a diverse line up including Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, Min Xiao Fen, Billy Martin and many others.

The CMS™ 2017 season begins with the first workshops it has conducted in New York City in over twenty years, from March 31 – April 2, at the Greenwich House Music School (46 Barrow St.) in Greenwich Village. The workshop features two master classes per day with guiding artists guitarist/bandleader/composer Nels Cline (Wilco) and percussionist/composer Susie Ibarra, along with CMS co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso leading CMS ‘basic practice’ as well as improvisers’ orchestra sessions. Bassist Ken Filiano and other musicians work with participants on a more personal level, informally coaching, playing and tutoring daily.  Details and registration are here.

Also at Greenwich House Music School CMS will present two evening concerts.  “The Music of Richard Teitelbaum” with noted composer Richard Teitelbaum  (electronics), Marilyn Crispell (piano), Leila Bordreuil (cello) and Miguel Frasconi (glass object instruments) on Saturday, April 8 at , 8:30 PM.  The next month CMS will present “The Music of Karl Berger” with Karl Berger (piano), Steve Gorn (bansuri flutes, clarinet), Sana Nagano (violin), Jason Hwang (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello), and Ken Filiano (bass) on Saturday, May13 at 8 PM.

In June CMS heads upstate to Big Indian, NY in the Catskill Mountains for an expanded workshop intensive at its upstate home, Full Moon Resort.  The workshop will be split into two parts. The first will take place June 12 -16, featuring Warren Smith, Peter Apfelbaum, Min Xiao Fen on Chinese modes, Joe McPhee, Tanya Kalmanovitch, Ken Filiano, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, and others.  The second part will take place June 19 – 23, featuring Billy Martin, Cyro Baptista, Mark Guiliana, Gil Olivera, Allen Herman, Adam Morford and others.  Musicians and non-musicians can sign up for either part, and if they register for both workshops, they will receive a 25% discount.

CMS will be back in Manhattan for a series of concerts by the CMS Improvisers Orchestra at the El Taller Cultural Community Center 215 East 99th Street.  The concerts will take place on three Saturday evenings, April 29, May 27 and June 10 and will feature special guests composer/violinist David Soldier (4/29), poets Papoleto Melendez and Bernardo Palumbo (5/27) and percussionist Valerie Naranjo (6/10), along with CIO regulars Peter Apfelbaum, Warren Smith, Graham Haynes and Ken Filiano, among many others.

On Labor Day weekend, on Saturday, September 2 at 8:00pm, CMS will be at Woodstock’s legendary Maverick Concerts to present “In the Spirit of Don Cherry,” a septet led by Karl Berger and featuring CMS associate artistic directors Steven Bernstein and Peter Apfelbaum, Mark Helias, Tani Tabbal, Bob Stewart and Ingrid Sertso, exploring musical themes from Cherry’s 50 year-old landmark recordings Symphony for Improvisers and other recordings.

CMS’ Fall 2017 Workshop will take place at the Full Moon Resort from October 2-6, featuring composer/guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Billy Martin, Omar Tekbilek on Turkish music, bassist Ken Filiano, Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and additional performers to be named.

The CMS 2017 season will conclude with a second concert series at El Taller on four Saturdays: September 30, October 28, November 25 and December 9. Special guests and artistic collaborations will be detailed at a later date.

Woodstock, NY – World-class musicians taking part in the Creative Music Studio’s Fall Workshop, including composer/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, Moroccan Gnawa master Hassan Hakmoun, drummer/percussionists Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph, along with CMS™ co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, are participating in four concerts Monday, June 6 through Thursday, June 9 at the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY. The concerts start each night at 8:30 pm in The Roadhouse, an intimate setting to see artists who often play large concert halls or festivals.   A donation of $20 to CMS is suggested at the door. Seating in the Roadhouse is limited.

These concerts will also feature Ken Filiano on bass, Harvey Sorgen and Tani Tabbal on drums, Angelica Sanchez on piano, Omar Tamez on guitar, and other special guest artists soon to be named. The Creative Music Studio™ Fall Workshop performance line up is scheduled to be:

Monday June 6: Adam Rudolph (percussion), Hassan Hakmoun (sintir, vocals), Karl Berger (piano, vibes), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Ken Filiano (bass), Harvey Sorgen (drums), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Omar Tamez (guitar)

Tuesday, June 7: Meshell Ndegeocello (bass/vocals), Adam Rudolph (percussion), Hassan Hakmoun (sintir, vocals), Karl Berger (piano, vibes), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Ken Filiano (bass), Harvey Sorgen (drums), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Omar Tamez (guitar)

Wednesday, June 8: Adam Rudolph (percussion), Hassan Hakmoun (sintir, vocals), Karl Berger (piano, vibes), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Ken Filiano (bass), Hamid Drake (drums), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Omar Tamez (guitar)

Thursday, June 9: Adam Rudolph (percussion), Hassan Hakmoun (sintir, vocals), Karl Berger (piano, vibes), Ingrid Sertso (vocals), Ken Filiano (bass), Tani Tabbal (drums), Angelica Sanchez (piano), Omar Tamez (guitar)

Directions or information about the Full Moon Resort is available by calling 845.254.5117. More information about the Creative Music Studio’s Fall Workshop is here.

CMS Workshop Guiding Artists and concert performers in 2013 – 15 included Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, John Medeski, Henry Threadgill, Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich, John Hollenbeck, Amir elSaffar, Warren Smith, Oliver Lake, Don Byron, Tyshawn Sorey, Peter Apfelbaum, Tony Malaby, Cyro Baptista, Marilyn Crispell, Steven Bernstein, Jason Hwang, Kirk Knuffke, Kenny Wessel, Steve Gorn, Mark Helias, Tom Rainey, Thomas Buckner, Judi Silvano, Harvey Sorgen, Tani Tabbal, Ken Filiano, Badal Roy, Omar Tamez, and John Menegon, in addition to Creative Music Foundation co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso.

The Creative Music Studio’s Improvisers Orchestra, conducted by Karl Berger, will perform two concerts at the El Taller Cultural Community Center at 215, East 99th Street in Manhattan, on Saturdays, May 21 and June 18 at 8:30pm (with a rehearsal open to ticket holders at 7:00).  Since its inception in 2011, the Improvisers Orchestra, comprised of 30 or more professional string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists who turn improvisational ideas into fully formed concerts, has performed 85 times.

Conducted in Karl’s inimitable style developed over decades at the legendary Creative Music Studio™, the Improvisers Orchestra explores original compositions by Karl Berger as well as melodies from the world’s folk traditions, and themes written by visionaries such as Don Cherry or Ornette Coleman, creating a platform for musical ideas to arise spontaneously in solo/duo/trios among the orchestra’s musicians. Karl’s conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations and dynamics.  One of the orchestra’s trademarks is Ingrid Sertso’s unique vocalizations and poetry.

The CMS™ Improvisers Orchestra has received numerous critical reviews. In a glowing review, the Wall Street Journal, said the orchestra’s sound “draws on lush harmonies and a well-defined relationship between foreground soloists and background.”  The arts blog Lucid Culture remarked that “the camaraderie and warmth of the repartee between the orchestra and conductor – and among the orchestra itself – was visceral,” and acclaimed jazz critic Howard Mandel wrote that the orchestra “can expand on simple themes paying utmost attention to dynamics and each other through ‘intuited communication.’”

Musicians featured in these CMS™ performances include: Jason Hwang, viola, Sana Nagano, Leonor Falcon, Richard Carr, violins, Graham Haynes, cornet, Peter Apfelbaum, Ras Moshe, flute and tenor sax, Sylvain Leroux, fula flutes, Haruna  Fukazawa, Gene Coleman, Nick Gianni, flutes , Andy Laties, shakuhachi, Lee Odom, Don Payne, clarinets, Michael Lytle, Christoph Knoche, bass clarinet, Richard Keene, oboe, Jason Candler, soprano sax, Rocco John, alto sax, Bill Ylitalo, baritone sax, Yasuno Katsuki, euphonium, Rick Maurer ,Westwood Johnson, trombones, Michael Gassmann, Ted Orr guitars, John Ehlis, mandolin, Ken Filiano, Max Johnson, Nicolas Letman, basses, Warren Smith, Aaron Latos, Hollis Headrick, John Pietaro, percussion, Ingrid Sertso, vocals.

Composer/bassist/vocalist and educator Meshell Ndegeocello, Moroccan gnawa master Hassan Hakmoun, and percussionist/composer/bandleader Adam Rudolph join Creative Music Studio Artistic Directors/Co-founders Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso as Guiding Artists for the CMS Spring 2016 Workshop intensive, June 6 – 10, at the ear-inspiring Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY.

This workshop, during long spring days and short nights, features one Guiding Artist(s) working with participants in two workshops each day, creating multiple opportunities for artists to work directly with participants as individuals or in ensembles.  As in the past, there will be daily CMS basic practice (body movement, breath work, rhythm and vocal training), as well as 90 minutes each day with Karl Berger leading orchestra of improvisers.   Additional Guiding Artists will be on hand to work with participants on a more personal level, informally coaching, playing and tutoring daily.  These will be named soon.

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The revamped Creative Music Studio will present the debut of its new Improvisers Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karl Berger with a premiere performance on Saturday, April 16 at Greenwich House Music School, 46 Barrow Street (off Bleecker Street) in Greenwich Village.  An 8:30 pm performance will follow a 7:00 pm rehearsal that’s open to concert ticket holders.

Performers include: Ingrid Sertso, vocals, poetry; Steven Bernstein, trumpet; Graham Haynes, cornet; Peter Apfelbaum, tenor sax, flute; Steve Gorn, bansuri flutes; Sylvain Leroux, flute, fula flute; Kenny Wessel, guitar; Ken Filiano, bass; Hilliard Greene, bass; Billy Martin, drums, percussion; Warren Smith, drums, percussion; Lee Odom, clarinet; Yasuno Katsuki, euphonium; Sana Nagano, violin; Ernesto Llorens, violin; Jason Hwang, viola; Tomas Ulrich, cello; and Karl Berger, conductor.

The Improvisers Chamber Orchestra, consisting of professional string, horn, reed, and percussion soloists, turns composed and improvisational ideas developed during a workshop/rehearsal into a fully formed chamber orchestra performance. A 7:00 pm workshop/rehearsal is open to concert ticket purchasers, who will also receive a CMS Archive Project compilation CD.

Berger developed his distinct and imaginative way of conducting at the legendary Creative Music Studio, the 45 year-old nonprofit Berger and Sertso co-founded with the late Ornette Coleman. The Improvisers Chamber Orchestra will explore original themes by Berger and other composers, melodies from the world's folk traditions and musical ideas that arise in spontaneous improvisations by the ICO’s musicians. Berger's conducting blends and harmonizes improvised sounds and rhythms in constantly shifting instrumentations that highlight individual soloists.  The ICO features CMS artistic directors Berger and Sertso, along with its new associate artistic directors Bernstein, Martin and Apfelbaum.